Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Wow. Where to even start. What a symphony of scorched earth heroics, a two and a half hour maelstrom of thundering action, introspective gloom and very current vibes of apocalyptic dread. I’m not sure if I was watching an entirely different film from some of these bitter bottomed critics who are maiming it with inaccurately nasty reviews. Balls to them. Zach Snyder should be proud of this achievment, for in the face of both ruthless odds and rabid fans who would make any one of us piss down our legs at the thought of ‘getting it right’, he has mounted a titanic epic of a superhero flick, hitting all the right notes and fuelling both casual moviegoers and salivating super fans with a rekindled love for comic book films. A much welcomed grit and violent edge creeps into the proceedings here, a tone which Snyder has a passion for and is incredibly deft with. We begin with a visually arresting opening credit sequence, which Snyder previously perfected to hair raising brilliance in Watchmen, a ten minute opus set to Bob Dylan. Here he inter cuts shots of young Bruce Wayne, both discovering the prophetic swarm of bats and on the fateful night of his parents murder, a sequence done over a thousand times in film, but never quite with the inventive flair used here. We then arrive with adult Bruce (Ben Affleck) in Metropolis right as it’s being ripped to shreds by the Def Jam smackdown match of Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon). There’s eerie shades of 9/11 as Bruce darts through the ashen rubble, attempting to save the employees in one of his towers. One senses the fear and rage in Wayne right off the bat (pun intended). He glowers in seething fury at the man of steel, primally threatened and haunted all over again by loved ones he couldn’t save a second time around. This film addresses the ludicrous amount of destruction that Superman wrought upon Metropolis in several ways. Political nerve endings are fried as Senate and State alike get hostile towards the god in the red cape. No one is more aggressive than Batman, though. This brings me to Affleck as Batman. Without a doubt my favourite cinematic incarnation of the caped crusader, and his debonair counterpart to date. Yes, even more so than Bale. Nolan’s The Dark Knight is still tops for me, but the portrayal of Batman by Bale didn’t strike as harmonious a chord with me as Affleck. It just didn’t feel like pure Batman, it was real world Batman. Affleck feels much more rooted in the comics, and God damn it all if he isn’t the most savage, violent Bats to come our way, well… ever. I’ve always been bothered by the nagging fact that Batman refuses to kill. Even in in a beatdown he could easily inadvertently cause death, so why bother trying? Here, he doesn’t go out of his way to deliberatly kill, but he sure has no problem brutally breaking bones and stabbing his adversaries without an iota of faux-noble hesitation. That’s the kind of Batman I want to see. Fuming, fired up and full of rage demons that erupt into fantastic action scenes. One sequence involving a room full of thugs is just jaw dropping and probably my favourite sequence of the film, even over the titular smackdown with Superman. There’s an earthy, simplistic take to him as well, with a modest suit that gives nods to Frank Miller and even Batman: The Animated Series. He is by far the elemental force that the character should be, and the part of the film that I connected with most. I hope he gets his standalone film real soon. Henry Cavill has grace and intuition as Superman, and a surprisingly earthly aura as Clark Kent, in a fit about Batman’s vigilante tactics. He’s the outsider here, an orphaned deity truly trying to do his best in a world that often shuns him in fear. He was never my favourite superhero, or even on the list, but Cavill combined with Snyder make him a force to be reckoned with, and a hero I can get behind. The two eventually meet in a remarkably choreographed clash of the titans, a duel that really only lasts a few minutes and isn’t central theme, which raises questions in my head about the first part of that title. Their fight is composed of Batman’s hard hitting, blunt force physicality pitted against Superman’s fluid, elegent invincibility which is satisfyingly put to the test by the appearance of a certain green mineral we all know about. The James Cameron-esque suit Batman wears for the fight is a grinding wonder that looks like it weighs a metric ton and could level buildings alongside the man of steel. The combat feels urgent, from the gut and roars into action perfectly. Of course, that isn’t where the fireworks stop, but I ain’t sayin any more than that. Gal Gadot is truly wonderful as Wonder Woman, I also can’t wait for her solo outing, and wish she’d been in the film more. Her much talked about entrance is the definition of crowd pleasing, and will make you cheer in approval, which I did out loud. She’s endlessly gorgeous, and has the toughness to go along with it, a great casting decision by anyone’s tally. Jesse Eisenberg wowed me as a young, jittery Lex Luthor, in what is probably the most clinically insane portrayal thus far. Forget bumbling Gene Hackman and hammy Kevin Spacey, this guy seals it for me. There’s a true madness to his Lex, which when given enough money and resources can have cataclysmic results. It’s a villain to remember, and Eisenberg exudes palpable danger from every pore, his psychopathic sheen of logic barely shrouding the mania beneath. Jeremy Irons is a more restrained, jaded Alfred who is still unconditionally supportive of Wayne, but is reaching the end of his rope which is tethered to pure world weariness. He gets some of the only humerous bits of the film, albeit of dry, brittle variety. Amy Adams is reliably terrific, her eyes pools of perception that mirror the horror and spectacle of the events through the mind of a human, with every ounce of nerve and courage as those around her that have superpowers, or expensive toys. Diane Lane is weathered wisdom and maternal compassion as Martha Kent, nailing her scenes with the small town, kindhearted patience that a film this noisy deserves, tipping the scales to provide occasional serenity in the eye of the hurricane. Kevin Costner makes a brief appearance in one of the films numerous and often confusing dream sequences. He was a highlight in Man Of Steel, and brings the same baleful, gruff adoration here, in a wonderful but brief scene with Clark. Laurence Fishburne is another source of rare humour as the perpetually exasperated Perry, CEO of the Daily Planet. Aggravated and cheeky, he commands every frame he’s in and had me chuckling no end. Holly Hunter has forged a career of playing no nonsense hard asses, here a ballbreaking US Senator here who shares a moment of distilled intensity with Luthor proving that Superhero films can have some of the best written dialogue. Harry Lennix makes great use of said writing too as the steely Secretary Of Defense. Callan Mulvey and Scoot McNairy are memorable in supporting turns. Listen hard for Patrick Wilson and Carla Gugino, and look for a certain ocean dwelling dude in the briefest of moments. Jeffrey Dean Morgan also has a cameo that’s almost too good to be true. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, who was so top notch with Mad Max: Fury Road, combine efforts for a score that knocks it out of the park and several miles further. Batman has a soul rousing battle cry of an overture, with subtle shades of Zimmer’s work on the Nolan films, built upon to give us something truly unique and fitting for the character. Lex Luthor is accompanied by a fitful cacophony of strings that sound like the Arkham Asylum charity orchestra having a collectively unnerving seizure. My favourite riff though I think is for Wonder Woman, a deviously disarming jaunt that strays from the grandiose, baroque theme and feels wickedly subversive, getting you just so pumped for her character. Zimmer’s work on Interstellar made it my top score of 2014, because he leapt out of the box of his usual tricks and gave us something we’d never heard from him before. Here he shreds that box with ingenuity and creative output, a varied, explosive piece that assaults your ears splendidly. My one concern with the film was a dream sequence midway through concerning Batman, and anyone who’s seen the film knows what I’m talking about. I’m sure comic book fans have some point of reference or context regarding it, but the casual viewer doesn’t, and a little more explaining would have been nice. I will say though it showcases Batman in an entirely new light which took me off guard nicely. This is what a superhero movie should be, plain and simple. Big, bold, audacious, stirring and full of high flying action, dastardly villains, conflicted heroes clashing like the ocean tides and a sense of pure adventure. Forget what the critics are saying, this one comes up aces in all categories and is a perfectly wonderful start to the stories of a group of characters that I look forward to seeing in many a film to come. Especially Affleck’s Batman.
“That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.”
Zack Snyder’s BATMAN V SUPERMAN DAWN OF JUSTICE is unlike any superhero film we’ve seen before. It is brazen and it is bold, it is disjointed and over packed with setting up the new DC Universe. When I say that this film is a complete mess, I mean it in the way of how APOCALYPSE NOW is a complete mess. BvS cannot be compared to any existing, non-universe, DC film that came prior, and it certainly cannot be compared to anything that Marvel has done. Marvel likes to follow a template. They know what works and what doesn’t, and they certainly do not take many risks at all. BvS takes risk after risk after risk, and by doing so Snyder has made a remarkable film.
The casting of Ben Affleck as the fifty year old Bruce Wayne/Batman was a brilliant move by Snyder and Warner Brothers. We know who Batman is. We’ve seen Batman’s story countless times. There’s nothing more that can be said about him. Michael Keaton was perfect, Val Kilmer was admirable; George Clooney fully admits his turn almost killed Batman, and the Bale/Nolan trilogy was a godsend to the Batman’s onscreen presence. Now, we get to see the version of the Batman that some of us have always wanted, and a lot of people didn’t even know they wanted. We see what comes after everything we have seen prior. The Batman is older; he’s even more cynical and jaded. He’s given up on hope and resorted to his anger, his vengeance. He has become a killer.
Affleck’s take on Batman may just be the best one yet. He has resorted to his primal brutish instincts with one goal in mind. He doesn’t want to make Superman submit; he doesn’t want Superman to stand trial and have society serve justice for the atrocity he’s brought to the world. He wants to kill him, and if he can’t, he will die trying. Affleck transforms the Batman into a battle worn warrior. He is a man who doesn’t care about peace and justice, he is a man who has a blatant disregard for hope.
Zack Snyder is the epitome of a polarizing filmmaker. He has a solid fanbase who are passionate about his films. Snyder has an equally loud echo chamber made up of people who strongly dislike him. Who refuse to give him credit for anything positive. There is not another filmmaker alive who could have made a Batman/Superman film that sets up not only the Justice League, but also an entire new universe to be explored. Zack Snyder, takes everything that was thrown at him: a follow up to MAN OF STEEL, introducing a new Batman without spending a film giving him an origin, introducing Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash, and Aquaman. Snyder not only did all these things, but excelled in a remarkable way.
Yes, it’s another superhero film. Yes it’s another big budget blockbuster. Yes, it’s going to set up multiple franchises that we’ve already seen. But it has never been done in such a magnificent way. Affleck, along with Jeremy Irons as the new Alfred, and Jesse Eisenberg as the smoke screen for the real Lex Luthor, all bring pre-existing gravitas with them. Immediately adding validity to characters so we don’t need to spend a movie a piece building up backstory for them
Film critics, whether professional or Facebookers/bloggers, who don’t like this film, who are relishing in the critical shitstorm this film received, already made their minds up that they were going to hate this film. Much like IndieWire and a few other websites tried their absolute hardest to sink TRUE DETECTIVE season 2 before it even aired, the way some critics approached the new Star Wars film in a highbrow, disregarding way – DAWN OF JUSTICE suffered much of the same fate, but none of that matters. The film is going to and already has broken box office records, and the dark and dreary foundation of the new DC Universe is set.
There is a striking moment in the film that was shown in the first trailer. The second Robins suit is displayed in the Batcave with spray paint on it: “The joke is on you, Batman!” Not only does this tell us, in part, of why the Batman is so angry and rage filled, but I can’t help but think that is also a way of Snyder saying that to his haters, those who rallied hard against this film: the joke is most certainly on you.